Animal Science Research Centre - Beef Unit Trial Results 2005 (a) Evaluation of head-cut whole crop wheat and barley for beef cattle

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1 Animal Science Research Centre - Beef Unit Trial Results 2005 (a) Evaluation of head-cut whole crop wheat and barley for beef cattle Introduction: A preliminary investigation at Harper Adams University (Marsh and Gibson, 2004) indicated that head-cut whole crop wheat could offer beef finishers the opportunity to achieve high levels of animal performance and reduce feed costs per kg gain when compared to diets based on rolled barley. Object: The objective of this experiment was to evaluate crop yield and animal performance with dairy-bred bulls and heifers, from winter wheat and winter barley crops harvested both conventionally and at the end of physiological grain fill (approx 70% dry matter). The latter being made into cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop. Timing: The trial started in September 2004 with 72 Jan Feb 2004 born British Blue x Holstein bulls and heifers. Slaughtered Feb-April Forage: The conventionally combined cereals and whole crops were harvested from the same fields of winter barley (v: Pearl) and winter wheat (v: Solstice). The whole crop was harvested days prior to conventional combining. The wheat had a standing height of 76cm at harvest and the top 25cm of the wheat was head-cut with a forager fitted with a Primary processing mill therefore cracking the grains and treated with 35kg/t Home n Dry (FiveF Agri LLP) at ensiling. The barley had a standing height of 87cm when whole cropped and the top 35cm of the barley was head-cut and treated with 35kg/t Home n Dry at ensiling. The target was to head-cut the top 25cm of the barley but this was not possible due to brackling (bending over) of the heads. The whole crop stubbles were mown and baled. Table 1: Crop fresh weight yields (t/ha). DM yields in brackets. Whole crop Whole crop Whole crop (10.1) (11.5) 7.3 (6.3) 9.8 (8.3) Straw 5.3 (4.9) 3.3 (2.9) 5.0 (4.3) 3.8 (3.3) Additive (0.41) (0.51) TOTAL (t DM/ha) 12.6 (10.9) 16.8 (13.3) 14.8 (12.6) 20.5 (15.3) 1

2 Table 2: and whole crop production costs ( /ha July 2004) Machinery (a) Seed Sprays Fertiliser Harvesting Additive (b) Rent Total (c) Straw (d) cost ( /t) cost ( /t DM) Whole crop cost (e) ( /t DM) Straw cost ( /t) (a) Ploughing, power harrowing and 61.75/ha, spraying and fertiliser 7.41/ha per application. (HAU costs) (b) Home n 380/t applied at 35kg/t (c) Excludes straw harvesting charges (d) Mowing charge of 17.36/ha for the whole crop stubble. Baling charge of 2.10 per 250kg Mini Heston bale, 2/t (e) Includes dry matter provided by Home n Dry i.e. 409kg and 508kg DM/ha for whole crop barley and wheat respectively Treatments: 1. Beef: Ad lib 13% CP barley home mix plus ad lib barley straw. 2. Whole crop barley: Ad lib cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop barley (77.6% DM, 13.8% CP, 470 g NDF/kg DM, 39% starch) plus 150g mins per head per day. 3. Beef: Ad lib 13% CP wheat home mix plus ad lib wheat straw 4. Whole crop wheat: Ad lib cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop wheat (71.0% DM, 14.6% CP, 355 g NDF/kg DM, 43% starch) plus 150g mins per head per day. The barley and wheat home mixes were formulated as follows: 84% rolled cereal, 8% soya-bean meal, 5% molasses, 2% minerals 1% sodium bicarbonate. 2

3 Results: Table 3: Cattle performance (bull and heifer average) Start wt (kg) NS Days 181.2a 242.4b 203.9a 229.9b *** Slaughter wt (kg) NS DLWG (kg) 1.29a 1.01c 1.26a 1.12b *** Carcase wt (kg) NS KO% 55.0a 53.3b 54.9a 54.2a *** Conformation1 (1-7) NS Fatness1 (1-7) 3.44a 2.83b 3.38a 2.83b * Carcase DG (kg) 0.84a 0.62b 0.81a 0.70b *** FCR (kg feed: kg carcase gain) Sig DM Intake 2 (kg) 1,490 2,140 1,490 1,920 FCR (kg feed DM: kg LWG) Carcase price ( /kg) - April Carcase value ( ) Feed cost (p/kg LWG) Feed cost (p/kg carcase gain) GM/head ( ) GM/head/year ( ) Stocking rate (cattle/ha) GM/ha ( ) Notes: Within row, means with the same superscripts are not significantly different (p>0.05) 1 EUROP carcase classification: Conformation: P+=1 and E=7, Fat class: 1=1 and 5H=7. 2 DM intakes exclude the straw eaten from racks by the barley and wheat grain fed catle Conclusions: Harvesting cereals at the end of physiological grain fill (approx 70% dry matter) compared to conventionally harvesting with a combine can increase dry matter yields by % (approx 2.1 tonnes per hectare) The target should be to head-cut the top cm of the cereal crop. A higher cutting height could leave some grain un-harvested. A lower cutting height will reduce the energy density of the forage. There were no significant differences in animal performance between the barley and wheat grain fed beef cattle. The wheat however must be lightly rolled and it is recommended that straw must be available ad libitum from racks and the use of a rumen buffer, such as sodium bicarbonate, is considered necessary to minimize problems with bloat and acidosis. 3

4 Compared to the barley and wheat grain treatments the cattle fed the cracked headcut urea treated whole crop wheat recorded lower daily and carcase weight gains, took longer to reach slaughter and recorded lower fat scores. The head-cut whole crop wheat fed bulls recorded significantly heavier slaughter and carcase weights. The heifers fed cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop recorded lower fat classifications. It should therefore enable them to be slaughtered at heavier carcase weights which would be more suited to market requirements. An intensive beef production system based on finishing young bulls housed yearround from 3 months old to slaughter at months old on cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop barley cannot be recommended due to the relatively low headcutting height and energy content of the crop resulting in reduced daily live weight gains and margins per head and per hectare. Cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop barley could however be suitable for Semi-intensive beef production. The lowest feed costs per kg gain and highest margins per head and per hectare were recorded by the cattle fed cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop wheat. Growing a potentially lower yielding crop of barley compared to wheat for intensive finishing of beef cattle is unnecessary. The trial was carried out just after the decoupling of support payments and gross margins were relatively low and do not include any contribution from the Single Farm Payment. Some advantages and disadvantages of cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop beef production are summarized below: Advantages A high energy and protein content forage concentrate Minimal bloat or acidosis disorders Can produce increased dry matter yields compared to fermented whole crop, grass and maize silage Enables intensively fed beef cattle to be fed higher yielding crops of wheat compared to barley One harvest and minimal (virtually zero) storage losses during winter and summer Elimination of the need to roll, mill, and mix cereals, purchase additional protein supplements and dry, or preserve cereals when harvested above 15% moisture content. Flexible harvest options - Cereals can be conventionally harvested if they are not to be made into whole crop and fed to livestock Harvesting days prior to conventional combining allows earlier entry for the following crop A 'practical and simple beef production system It is critical that the effectiveness of the Primary Processing Mill is checked at harvest with at least 90-95% of the grains being cracked, and that the urea-based additive is applied evenly throughout the clamp. In the previous study at Harper Adams (Marsh and Gibson 2004) cattle fed cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop wheat supplemented with Dried Lactose recorded 4

5 significantly higher daily live weight gains compared to non Lactose supplemented cattle (1.37 v 1.23kg) which were comparable to DLWG s recorded by cereal fed cattle (1.42kg). However feeding Dried Lactose with cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop wheat was not financially viable when costed at 280/t. Relatively lowcost liquid Lactose blends are commercially available and should be considered if suitable storage facilities are available. Disadvantages Lodged crops cannot be Problems may occur with mowing straw from the head-cut stubbles in rutted fields. Cannot be used as a break crop in an arable rotation, unlike grass or maize silage To convert from an intensive barley beef system to cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop beef production based production system may require investment in feed storage and feeding equipment i.e. conversion of feed hoppers to trough feeding, clamps etc. Acknowledgement: Financial support from EBLEX is gratefully acknowledged. References: Marsh, S.P. and Gibson, I Whole crop wheat for intensively finished beef cattle. Proceedings of the British Society of Animal Science. Paper 190. Marsh S.P. and Keogh B Evaluation of cracked head-cut urea treated whole crop wheat and barley and conventionally combined wheat and barley for finishing beef cattle. Proceedings of the British Society of Animal Science. Paper 132 Simon P. Marsh, Senior Lecturer, Harper Adams University April

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